Afghan president and rival announce power-sharing agreement

Published May 17, 2020
In this handout photograph taken on May 17, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) and his rival Abdullah Abdullah (L) pose for photographs ahead of signing a power-sharing deal agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. — AFP
In this handout photograph taken on May 17, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) and his rival Abdullah Abdullah (L) pose for photographs ahead of signing a power-sharing deal agreement at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. — AFP

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah have signed a power-sharing agreement two months after both declared themselves the winner of last September's presidential election.

Ghani's spokesman Sediq Sediqqi tweeted on Sunday that a political deal between Ghani and Abdullah had been signed in which Ghani would remain president of the war-torn nation.

The deal calls for Abdullah to lead the country's National Reconciliation High Council and some members of Abdullah's team would be included in Ghani's cabinet.

The council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan's peace process.

Omed Maisam, a spokesman for Abdullah's team, confirmed an agreement had been signed at the presidential palace. "A technical team will work on the implementation of the agreement and details will be shared later," he said.

Two presidents?

Afghanistan has been in political disarray since the country's election commission in December announced Ghani had won the September 28 election with more than 50 per cent of the vote.

Abdullah had received more than 39pc of the vote, according to the election commission, but he and the Elections Complaint Commission charged widespread voting irregularities.

Ghani and Abdullah both declared themselves president in parallel inauguration ceremonies in March. They have been locked in a power struggle since then and the discord prompted the Trump administration to announce it would cut $1 billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two weren't able to work out their differences.

A peace agreement between the US and the Taliban signed on February 29 calls for US and Nato troops to leave Afghanistan. It was seen at the time as Afghanistan's best chance at peace in decades of war.

Since then, the US has been trying to get the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin intra-Afghan negotiations, but the political turmoil and personal acrimony between Ghani and Abdullah impeded talks. Negotiations that were to take place in March never happened.

Rising poverty

Despite 18 years and billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains desperately poor. The poverty level soared from 35pc of the population in 2012 to more than 55pc last year.

Poverty in Afghanistan is defined as a person who survive on $1 or less a day. Successive Afghan governments, including Ghani's, have been accused by international watchdogs of widespread corruption.

Meanwhile, Kabul and other cities are in lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Afghanistan has performed only limited testing so far with about 22,000 tested.

The country has more than 6,400 confirmed infections in a nation of 36.6 million. As more testing becomes available, the country's confirmed infection numbers will likely rise sharply, according to public health officials.

The death toll officially at 168 is likely much higher.

The country's health care system, devastated by four decades of war, is woefully unprepared for a major outbreak.

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